Even at the peak of their success, it was hard to figure out what to make of The Darkness. The band piqued the world's interest with what seemed like attempts to both revive glam and parody it, sometimes all within the course of the same track. They embraced the cliches and hedonism of the genre, donned spandex outfits, and unleashed a falsetto that could just as easily impress the listeners as give them a migraine.
Yet, it was impossible to deny that their music was fun. The energy the group gave off was contagious; their light hearted tunes were amusing; and their over the top act was entertaining, albeit unevenly so. And if the success of their multi-platinum debut album, Permission to Land (2003), was anything to go by, listeners were enjoying what The Darkness brought to the table. The novelty of this act might have started to wear off for the general audience by the time their sophomore effort, One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back (2005), hit the shelves, but the band had already managed to tag an audience that understood their shtick and was willing to go along with it. It was precisely this section of listeners that was disappointed when amid personal issues and struggles with drugs and alcohol, front man Justin Hawkins decided to quit the band, effectively marking the end of The Darkness.
After pursuing solo careers and other projects, none of which panned out quite the way the musicians would have wanted, the group members ultimately decided to rejoin forces and reform The Darkness last year. Now with their comeback album ready and released, the rockers are once again trying to get listeners grooving to their good time rock.
If you've ever heard anything by The Darkness then you already know what their new record sounds like. Hot Cakes, the band's first release in nearly seven years and their third studio album overall, is a set of eleven tracks that are mostly exuberant and upbeat, although their content is slightly more understated and restrained than the group's previous efforts.
The “Englishman with a very high voice, doing rock and roll” kicks off the album by reminding us that he is “in a band with my brother and my two best mates” in the unnecessarily crude album opener 'Every Inch of You', before unveiling catchy anthems like 'Nothin's Gonna Stop Us' and 'Everybody Have a Good Time' that give off their trademark enthusiasm. 'Living Each Day Blind' is proof that the group can still craft a rousing pop song. And there is a curveball in the form of an over the top metal cover of Radiohead's 'Street Spirit (Fade Out)', which is equal parts spectacular and appalling.
There are guitar riffs aplenty and Hawkin's vocals are as piercing as ever, which is why the album reminds us how The Darkness made it big in the first place while also displaying their limitations. The songs aren't as immediate as their first album, but they grow on you with each listen. It is unlikely to get the band the same level of attention that Permission to Land did, but it will still give their fans a reason to enjoy themselves. While the songs may veer from arena rock anthems to uplifting mid-tempo ditties, the set is still held back by the very factors that make it what it is; there is an element of predictability and repetitiveness to it, which, however, is to be expected based on the band's sound. Because ultimately, Hot Cakes simply sounds like The Darkness. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? You decide.